In Surprise Move, Moca Board to Turn Over Operation of Museum to Machine Project Gallery | A Considerable Town | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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In Surprise Move, Moca Board to Turn Over Operation of Museum to Machine Project Gallery 

Wednesday, Dec 17 2008
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An unconfirmed report suggests that the Museum of Contemporary Art’s board of trustees is ready to turn control of the embattled institution over to a small nonprofit art space, Machine Project. “Basically, the board doesn’t know what to do,” said a source with inside information. “This is a Hail Mary.”

It’s a move certain to surprise many in the art world, given that philanthropist Eli Broad has offered $30 million to shore up MOCA’s endowment — money that Broad insists will come with no strings attached. (“Yeah, right,” said the insider, “if you don’t mind a contemporary-art museum named EDYTHE.”)

Another option for MOCA was to allow a takeover by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, but the insider said that the board was torn. “Some members can’t stand the proposed new acronym — MO’LACMA — and others simply can’t stand mo’ Michael Govan.” After a long night of discussion and drinking, the Machine Project idea came up, though no one can remember who suggested it, said the insider. Run out of a small commercial space on Alvarado Street in Echo Park, Machine is known for its quirky, eclectic programming mixing art and science and craft and, perhaps most importantly, innovation.

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On November 15, Machine took over LACMA for a day, turning the venerable institution into an arty, crafty fun zone, in the process drawing to the Mid-Wilshire campus an army of thin young women and their even thinner bearded boyfriends who rarely venture west of the Brite Spot. MOCA board members were impressed by reports from the event, particularly that of the gothic-arch speed guitarist on the roof, said the insider. “Rosette Delug was really turned on by that.”

Attempts to reach Mark Allen, Machine Project’s boyish 38-year-old impresario, were unsuccessful. But when told of the MOCA board’s plan, a man who answered the phone in the bedroom Allen is said to rent from his sister’s ex-boyfriend’s ex-wife said, “WTF?”

When pressed for examples of what Machine Project might do at MOCA, the man, who identified himself as an associate of Allen’s, demurred. Oh, c’mon, urged a reporter. A pause, and then the man asked for a fax number and hung up. Thirty minutes later, a fax arrived bearing the heading “Just Some Ideas”:

Übercashfloworgan: A combination Tim Hawkinsonian organ and cash vacuum machine features translucent plastic tentacles reaching from MOCA out onto Grand Avenue and beyond. Passersby are encouraged to donate large-denomination bills by an eerie-but-happy voice created by the organ, and can then watch as their money is sucked up through the tentacles, through MOCA’s roof and into a translucent bin near the entrance. Perennial “Guess How Much $ We Have Now?” contests ensue.

The Hole-in-the-Floor Gallery Featuring the Hyperbolic Board Member Reef and Fallen Fruit Torture Chamber: A series of small holes drilled into MOCA’s gallery floors reveal, when viewers put their eye to them, a living exhibition below — of the Institute for Figuring’s Margaret and Christine Wertheim crocheting MOCA board members into a hyperbolic coral reef made from blue plastic TheNew York Times bags. Every hour on the hour, as a harpist plays Pachelbel’s Canon in D, board members are force-fed overripe kumquats by the Fallen Fruit Collective.

Dunk-Da-Director Days: On Sunday afternoons until further notice, an amiable Jeremy Strick, wearing sunglasses, Hawaiian bathing trunks and a T-shirt reading “Who Me?” takes the dunking machine’s hot seat. Opportunities to throw the baseball will be auctioned off to the highest bidders. Ten balls for $1 million or 100 balls if you buy now! (Calling Susan Nimoy!) PayPal accepted.

Blue Balls IV: Artists Josh Beckman and Holly Vesecky re-create MOCA’s Sam Francis painting, Blue Balls III, using fresh flowers picked from the yards of board co-chairs David G. Johnson and Thomas Unterman.

Caught-Napping Area: Fight museum-management fatigue in the downstairs lounge, where visitors will find yoga mats, hot Bedtime Tea, and the relaxing sounds of water slowly but surely going down a drain.

The Sad Bassoon Orchestra With the Abbot-Kinney Gregorian Chanting Society: Reedy basso lamentations by 100 high school and collegiate players positioned throughout the galleries, punctuated by roving and quite weird chanters. Maybe a couple of didgeridoos thrown in, what the hell. Spirits provided by Glenfiddich.

A Minute Without MOCA: Members of the Magic Castle and a couple of really smart guys from Pomona College use smoke, mirrors and the glare off Disney Hall to “disappear” MOCA. Thousands of witnesses alerted by Facebook are asked to hold their breath and join a feel-good support group until the museum reappears.

BYO Paint Ball, Toilet Paper and Eggs: The Center for Land Use Interpretation leads a bus tour of MOCA board members’ homes.

Ask Mr. Gold Answer-Alike Contest: L.A. Weekly’s Pulitzer Prize–winning, whale-eating food critic appears, along with several impostors placed throughout the Geffen Contemporary’s “Collecting Collections” exhibition of California conceptual art. Ask the Mr. Golds about best (worst?) menudo, deer-colon tacos or how he could dare eat blubber (!). First 25 correct identifications of the real critic get to eat dinner with Mr. Gold at an Alhambra mini-mall of his choice. Participants who incorrectly identify Mr. Gold have to eat his favorite menudo. (To be videotaped for YouTube.)

The Green-Knight Jousting Tournament: A medieval battle staged between art blogger Tyler Green and Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight. Warm-ups feature both contestants thrusting their big lances into papier-mâché likenesses of MOCA board members. Winner of the main event will receive a crown and will be dubbed Sir Blogalot by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

The Annual Edward Goldman Academic Conference: Ph.D.s, theorists, critics, curators and deconstructionists from around the globe (well, SoCal at any rate) converge on MOCA for a series of enlightening lectures and discussions on the influential KCRW art critic. Topics include: “Just who is Edward Goldman?,” “Where the heck is he from?,” “What exactly is he saying?,” “Why does anyone care?,” “And what does ‘influential’ really mean, anyway?”

Joel Wachs Your Eyebrows Day: Visitors can feel good about themselves and the state of contemporary art in Los Angeles as the museum patio is turned into a giant spa! Dozens of manicurists welcome our former city councilman and current president of the Andy Warhol Foundation (and future MOCA director or board chairman?). Sit back, soak your feet in those weird plastic spa chairs while a nice Vietnamese lady does your nails, and dream.

Editor’s note: None of the above is true, of course, but stranger things could happen. ...Watch L.A. Daily for updates at laweekly.com.

Reach the writer at tchristie@laweekly.com

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